LAWFUEL – Law Jobs, Law News Network – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Ricky Langlois, Special Agent in Charge, Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division, Miami Field Office, and Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne, announced that defendant, InStar Services Group, Inc. (InStar), was convicted and sentenced today in a criminal case in connection with violations of the Clean Air Act asbestos regulations. The charges arose from the defendant’s 2006 restoration of damage caused by Hurricane Wilma at the Hawaiian Gardens Condominium Complex in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida.
InStar, a wholly owned subsidiary of The ServiceMaster Company, with significant business throughout Florida and the Gulf Coast States, engages in the rehabilitation and restoration of commercial and multi-family complexes in the wake of disasters such as hurricanes. InStar pled guilty and was sentenced before United States District Court Judge William P. Dimitrouleas in Fort Lauderdale, for knowingly failing to file an advance notification of intent to conduct demolition or renovation activities required by the Clean Air Act in projects where asbestos could be disturbed, and for knowingly violating the Clean Air Act Work Practice Standards for asbestos during the restoration and renovation of the Hawaiian Gardens Condominium Complex. .
The Federal Clean Air Act regulates the emission of hazardous air pollutants, including asbestos. The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants include notification and work practice standards that are binding on all persons engaged in demolition and renovation work who own, lease, operate, control, or supervise demolition or renovation operations at facilities with a requisite amount of asbestos present
Judge Dimitrouleas sentenced InStar to five (5) years of court-supervised probation and ordered it to pay a $1,000,000 criminal fine as a result of the two counts of conviction. In addition, InStar must pay $2,000,000 in community service to the Florida Environmental Task Force Trust Fund. Finally, InStar was ordered to develop, implement, and enforce a nation-wide Comprehensive Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) for all of its operations, to assure compliance with applicable laws and regulations for the identification, generation, handling, and disposal of all hazardous substances and wastes. A court-required independent consultant will oversee the development, implementation, and enforcement of the ECP during the period of probation and will regularly audit the process and report to the Court and the government annually.
According to court records, from at least November 18, 2005 through January 31, 2006, at the Hawaiian Gardens Condominium Complex in Lauderdale Lakes, InStar failed to provide the required advance notice but nonetheless engaged in restoration and renovation activities that disturbed approximately 144,000 square feet of regulated asbestos containing materials. InStar also failed to abide by the applicable work practice standards, despite having been warned by the Broward County Department of Planning and Environmental Protection Asbestos Coordinator of such requirements and of the likelihood that regulated asbestos containing materials were present at the site. Hurricane Wilma rendered many of the buildings at the Hawaiian Gardens Condominium Complex uninhabitable and InStar was retained by several of the individual condominium associations to perform emergency restoration activities. Court records detail that InStar lacked policies, procedures, and employee training in the handling of hazardous materials, including asbestos, that are routinely encountered in the disaster restoration business.
United States Attorney Acosta stated, “Unscrupulous contractors who ignore the laws and regulations governing the safe removal and disposal of hazardous materials, like asbestos, endanger the health of our citizens and risk permanent and serious damage to our environment. Such conduct will not be tolerated and will be aggressively prosecuted.”
EPA SAC Rick Langlois said, “This case demonstrates the commitment of both the EPA and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, not only to protect the health of our environment and welfare of the community, but also to seek criminal sanctions when individuals and companies fail to comply with safety regulations, and knowingly violate the laws of the United States.”
Mr. Acosta commended the investigative efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U. S. Attorney Jodi A. Mazer.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls . Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov/ or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov/.